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M20 - The Trifid Nebula

The @stro object for the week of 03/13/2000

image of M20-The Trifid Nebula

image courtesy of SEDS

M20 - The Trifid Nebula. The Trifid Nebula became "M20" in Charles Messier's catalog, but it got its "Trifid" name when it was viewed by John Herschel who noticed the appearance of "tri" or three different segments separated by dust lanes. It is also part of the NGC catalog with a designation of NGC 6514. The estimated distances to the Trifid vary widely between 2000 and 5200 light-years away.

Emission nebula are nebula that are visible because of radiation from nearby stars exciting the gas in the nebula. Reflection nebula are nebula that are visible because they are reflecting the light of nearby stars. The Trifid Nebula is consists of both emission and reflection nebulae. The red areas visible in the image are the emission nebula portion and are powered by a bright triple star system named CC24537. The blue areas are visible as a result of light reflected from a nearby O-Type star.

On a night of excellent seeing and dark skies the Trifid Nebula is reputed to be visible to the naked eye, but it will surely show up in modest sized telescope. Right now is the best time of year to undertake the "Messier Marathon", which is a marathon to locate and observe all of the objects in Messier's catalog. For more on the marathon check out the SEDS Messier Marathon webpage.

Current information for the M20 (North America):
Rise: 1h 48m 57s
Set: 6h 31m 57s
R.A.: 18:02
Dec.: -23:02
Magnitude: 6.3
Constellation: Sagittarius

more info from SEDS...

more info from Bill Arnett's site...

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